Ezulweni Investments – the events company embroiled in a court battle with the African National Congress (ANC) – found that the governing party's bank accounts had less than R100 000.
The company is claiming more than R140-million owed to it by the ANC.
This was revealed on Tuesday, a day after ANC spokesperson Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri said the ANC had the money but opted not to pay as a matter of "principle".
According to Ezulweni, the attachment of the ANC's accounts and assets last week revealed that the party had a mere R11 900 in one bank account and R44 000 in another, while another account had a few hundred rands.
The ANC has been given until the close of business on Wednesday to pay the money into a trust account, pending the outcome of a matter in the Constitutional Court, or face liquidation. Any steps to liquidate the party could jeopardise its chances to contest the elections in 2024.
In its papers to the Constitutional Court, the ANC said at least 1.5-million registered voters could be affected if the apex court did not grant it leave to appeal the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) judgment.
The party said the SCA "erred and misdirected itself" when it failed to concern itself with the oral agreement between Fikile Mbalula's then-personal assistant, Lebohang Nkholise, and Ezulweni.
These are some of the reasons put forward by the ANC in its attempt to avoid paying money owed for work done during the 2019 elections.
The party seeks leave to appeal against the SCA's judgment in its case with Ezulweni.
As of last Friday, the amount owed has since ballooned to about R144.6-million, including interest.
In the Constitutional Court papers, seen by News24, the ANC's lawyers write that the substantive issue regarding authority, either actual or ostensible authority, raises an "arguable point of law of general public importance which ought to be considered by this court".
The attorneys wrote:
This case is obviously crucially important to the ANC, but its importance goes further. The [ANC] is the majority and ruling political party in South Africa. The case involves vast amounts of money and assumed a public dimension as there has been considerable public interest in the matter.
The ANC also argued that the Constitutional Court's guidance would benefit other cases.
Ezulweni obtained a writ order from the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, giving the Sheriff the go-ahead to attach the ANC's assets and accounts.
The legal matter between Ezulweni and the ANC dates back to the last general election.
The company was forced to approach the Gauteng High Court after failing to recoup money it was owed for providing 30 000 election banners at a cost of R2 900 each.
The case was heard in 2020 and 2022, when the first ruling was made against the ANC, showing that Ezulweni had proven its case. In May, the company obtained a writ order.
The ANC then filed a late appeal application at the SCA but, on 24 November, the court said the ANC had been unconvincing in its appeal arguments.
On Monday, the Sheriff of the Gauteng High Court attempted to seize the ANC's assets at Luthuli House.
Ultimately, no furniture was removed and Ezulweni believes the ANC is in contempt of court for barring the Sheriff access.
Meanwhile, Ezulweni has given the ANC until the close of business on Wednesday to pay the money it owes or face liquidation.
The attorney representing Ezulweni, Sharique Sarlie, said the matter had no constitutionality.
"According to the rules, you must have a constitutional matter to bring to the apex court. You can't bring a factual dispute to the Constitutional Court. You have ventilated this in three courts already.
"It is clear that this is designed to delay execution; there is no constitutional point by any stretch of the imagination in the application," Sarlie said.
He said it was abundantly clear that this was to frustrate and delay the execution of judgment.
"I reckon they are hoping they will have to deal with this after the elections," Sarlie said, adding that the Constitutional Court was presently inundated with matters and could deal with the case after the elections.
"Given the systemic delay, it might well be only disposed of after the elections. We are trying to see [if] there is any process to expedite this, but, so far, we haven't found that process."
Sarlie added that Constitutional Court rules might not provide the option for an expedition.
The ANC's legal manager, Billy Malatji, said he would not be drawn into discussing the case's merits.
"Whether the matter is constitutional or not, it is up to the Constitutional Court to decide; it is not up to Ezulweni. Ezulweni is not the Constitutional Court, nor are their lawyers high court judges," Malatji said.
Attempts to reach Bhengu-Motsiri were unsuccessful, as calls and WhatsApp messages went unanswered.